Actress Shonka Dukureh, 44, Passes Away; She Sung “Hound Dog” in “Elvis”

 Actress Shonka Dukureh, 44, Passes Away; She Sung “Hound Dog” in “Elvis”: After making her name in Hollywood as the legendary blues singer Big Mama Thornton in “Elvis,” Shonka Dukureh was found dead on Thursday in Nashville. At the time, she was 44.

No foul play was detected, although the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department did not disclose a cause of death.

Thursday morning, one of Ms. Dukureh’s two young daughters reportedly found her motionless in her bedroom and fled to inform a neighbor, who then contacted the police.

The much-anticipated biopic “Elvis,” directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Austin Butler as the King and Tom Hanks as his manager Tom Parker, premiered in June.

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Ms. Dukureh’s breakthrough role was as Big Mama Thornton, the woman responsible for the initial recording of “Hound Dog” in 1952, a full year before it became an Elvis Presley smash.

She had found a part that would let her combine her powerful voice with the acting skills that were clearly on the rise thanks to her casting as Thornton.

Her performance of “Hound Dog” was exceptionally well received. According to her website, she was working on a studio album with the working title “The Lady Sings the Blues.”

Ms. Dukureh stated that she was born on September 3, 1977, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and that she currently resides in Nashville.

Her website states that she earned a master’s degree in teaching from Trevecca Nazarene University and a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Fisk University, thus she may have originally intended to become a teacher. Instead, she decided to study art.

Jamie Lidell and the Royal Pharaohs used her strong voice on their international tours, and she was a featured vocalist on many of their recordings.

Her portrayal of Elvis in “Elvis” quickly won her admirers, including members of the cast. Actress Olivia DeJonge, who portrayed Priscilla Presley, said that seeing Ms. Dukureh “was a heavenly experience.”

According to Ms. DeJonge, “it was insane to watch a celebrity literally be born, to have something in her sort of break free.”

No immediate reports of casualty counts or survivors were given.

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